Honda Motor Co. may cut production of the Honda Accord hybrid because sales have been so slow, Honda Executive Vice President Dick Colliver said Thursday at the New York Auto Show.
Colliver was the second executive in as many days to question the direction of hybrid sales during media previews for the show, which opens to the public Friday. Nissan Motor Co. Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said Wednesday that hybrid sales appear to be slowing down, something he has warned could happen as consumers decide whether hybrids are worth their additional cost.
Colliver wouldn't give exact sales for the Accord hybrid, which went on sale in December 2004, but said they make up a tiny percentage of Honda's overall sales. Overall Accord sales were down 4 percent last year, according to Autodata Corp.
"We've had to reevaluate our position," Colliver said. "It's having a hard time in the market."
Colliver said a decision on the Accord will be made sometime this year.
Not all hybrids are suffering. The Honda Insight hybrid saw sales jump 15 percent last year, and Colliver said sales of the Honda Civic hybrid remain strong. The company expects to sell 25,000 hybrid Civics this year, or 8 percent of its total Civic volume.
Colliver said the problem with the Accord is that the hybrid system is paired with a V6 engine, compared to the smaller 4-cylinder engine in the Civic, and consumers aren't convinced it will offer them any fuel savings.
Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus luxury division is betting that consumers eventually will adopt so-called performance hybrids like the Accord, which give vehicles a bigger engine with better fuel economy and lower emissions.
The 2008 Lexus LS 600h, introduced at the New York show, is the first luxury vehicle to pair a powerful V-8 engine with a hybrid system. The combination gives the 600h the power of a 12-cylinder engine with the fuel efficiency of a smaller vehicle. Lexus said the sedan will have fuel economy ratings equal to or better than some mid-sized luxury sedans.
But Colliver said he's not convinced consumers will embrace performance hybrids.
"We're still looking at where's the best package for hybrids," Colliver said. "We're going to have to watch the market."
Jack Nerad, editorial director of Kelley Blue Book, an auto information service, said he also expects consumers will be slow to adopt performance hybrids because they think of hybrids only as fuel savers.
"The general public doesn't grasp there is such a thing as a performance hybrid," Nerad said.
Hybrids made up 1.5 percent of new-car sales last year, up slightly from the year before, even though there were new models on the market, according to J.D. Power and Associates.